United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington
WILLIAM B. WHITE PLAINTIFF
ANDREW SAUL,  Commissioner of the Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
L. Bunning United States District Judge
brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to
obtain judicial review of an administrative decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff's
eligibility for Social Security disability insurance
benefits. (Doc. # 1). The Commissioner's determination
was partially favorable, finding that Plaintiff became
disabled on April 26, 2017, but was not disabled prior to
that date. Plaintiff's appeal therefore “involves
the disability onset date only, ” as Plaintiff argues
that the Commissioner's determination “is incorrect
in finding that Mr. White was not disabled prior to [April
26, 2017].” (Doc. # 14 at 1). The Court, having
reviewed the record and the parties' dispositive motions,
and for the reasons set forth herein, will deny
Plaintiff's dispositive motion (Doc. # 14), grant
Defendant's dispositive motion (Doc. # 18), and affirm
the Commissioner's decision.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
January 5, 2015, Plaintiff William B. White filed an
application for a period of disability and disability
insurance benefits, alleging disability beginning on May 30,
2014. (Doc. # 1 at 2; Tr. 236). White was forty-seven years
old at the time of filing; he alleged that he was unable to
work due to, inter alia, heart problems; multiple
orthopedic problems; lumbar radiculopathy problems; inability
to ambulate effectively; arthritis, degenerative problems,
and arthralgia; bilateral knee problems; fibromyalgia; gout
problems; dizziness, vertigo, and syncope problems;
peripheral neuropathy of his lower and upper extremities;
edema problems of the lower extremities including his feet
and ankles; morbid obesity problems; and psychological
problems including depression and anxiety. (Tr. 99, 123, 240;
Doc. # 14-1 at 3). His claims were denied initially and again
upon reconsideration. (Tr. 86-98, 99-115).
Plaintiff's request, an administrative hearing was
conducted before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Thuy-Anh T.
Nguyen on May 16, 2017. (Tr. 12, 32-85, 130). On September
29, 2017, ALJ Nguyen issued a partially-favorable decision,
finding that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of
the Social Security Act. (Tr. 8-25). However, ALJ Nguyen
found that Plaintiff “was not disabled prior to April
26, 2017, but became disabled on that date and has continued
to be disabled through the date of this decision.” (Tr.
12). The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner on March 20, 2018, when the Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review. 42 U.S.C. §
405(g); (Tr. 1-5).
filed this action on May 10, 2018, arguing that the ALJ erred
as a matter of law by finding that Plaintiff's disability
onset date was April 26, 2017, and not Plaintiff's
claimed onset date of May 30, 2014. (Doc. # 1 at 6). This
matter has culminated in cross-motions for summary judgment,
which are now ripe for adjudication. (Docs. # 14 and 18).
Standard of Review
review of the Commissioner's decision is restricted to
determining whether it is supported by substantial evidence
and was made pursuant to proper legal standards. See
Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 729 (6th Cir. 2007).
“Substantial evidence” is defined as “more
than a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance;
it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Cutlip
v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284,
286 (6th Cir. 1994). Courts are not to conduct a de novo
review, resolve conflicts in the evidence, or make
credibility determinations. Id.
the Court must affirm the Commissioner's decision, as
long as it is supported by substantial evidence, even if the
Court might have decided the case differently. Her v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 203 F.3d 388, 389-90 (6th Cir.
1999). If supported by substantial evidence, the
Commissioner's findings must be affirmed, even if there
is evidence favoring Plaintiff's side. Listenbee v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 846 F.2d 345,
349 (6th Cir. 1988). Similarly, an administrative decision is
not subject to reversal merely because substantial evidence
would have supported the opposite conclusion. Smith v.
Chater, 99 F.3d 780, 781-82 (6th Cir. 1996).
The ALJ's Determination
determine disability, the ALJ conducts a five-step analysis.
Step One considers whether the claimant has engaged in
substantial gainful activity; Step Two, whether any of the
claimant's impairments, alone or in combination, are
“severe”; Step Three, whether the impairments
meet or equal a listing in the Listing of Impairments; Step
Four, whether the claimant can still perform his or her past
relevant work; and Step Five, whether a significant number of
jobs exist in the national economy that the claimant can
perform. Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 127
F.3d 525, 529 (6th Cir. 1997) (citing 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520). The burden of proof rests with the claimant on
Steps One through Four. Jones v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003). As to the last
step, the burden of proof shifts to the Commissioner to
identify “jobs in the economy that accommodate [the
claimant's] residual functional capacity.”
Id. The ALJ's determination becomes the final
decision of the Commissioner if the Appeals Council denies
review, as it did here. See Thacker v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., No. 16-CV-114, 2017 WL 653546, at *1 (E.D. Ky.
Feb. 16, 2017); (Tr. 1-5).
at Step One, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of
May 30, 2014. Id. At Step Two, the ALJ determined
that the Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: (1)
congestive heart failure with pacemaker implantation; (2)
history of aneurysm; (3) hypertension; (4)
hypercholesterolemia; (5) dysfunction of the joints; (6)
fibromyalgia; (7) obesity; (8) affective disorder; and (9)
anxiety disorder. Id.
Three, the ALJ concluded that, during the relevant time
period between the alleged onset date of May 30, 2014, and
April 26, 2017, Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the
severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 15). At Step Four, the ALJ
found that between May 30, 2014 and April 26, 2017
(“the relevant time period”), Plaintiff possessed
the residual ...